Peak Chough?

A while back I posted about the progress of White-winged Choughs (Corcorax melanorhamphos) building nests around our place at Strangways. We’ve now counted seven nests with adults incubating eggs within a 400m radius of our house. Yesterday we saw the first family with fledglings shepherding three chicks around the ground, secreting them amongst the fallen timber. Today, as evening drew near the frantic adults were busy feeding and corralling their young charges amongst the shrubs, leaf litter and dead wood.

A White-winged Chough fledgling only a couple of days out of the nest having a good stretch.

All three of this little sweeties are able to fly – sort of. A bit of vigorous flapping and they can get a metre or two off the ground. We watched as some adults on the ground guided them to a fork in a Grey Box tree and other adults in a low branch of the tree seemed to encourage them upwards to a safe spot to roost for the night.

One fledgling starts the climb towards the adult birds on a horizontal branch about 3 metres high
All three struggle up the stem.
Giddying heights are reached, but holding on is not easy.

Eventually, all three gave up the climb and flew in ungainly style towards some logs on the ground, whereupon some adults began again the seemingly chaotic task of finding a safe place for the little crew to spend the night.

Back on the ground after the unsuccessful climb

We noted that pretty much as soon as these chicks were out of the nest, some Choughs had started construction of a new nest very close to the old one. We think but can’t be sure that this is the same group of about 12 birds building the second nest. What strikes me from these observations is how important dead wood on the ground is for sheltering these very young birds.

5 responses to “Peak Chough?

  1. Fascinating observations Patrick. This story should be on page one of every newspaper. Thanks

  2. What wonderful observations and how fantastic to have these birds so close

  3. I loved that lesson. Thank you.

  4. I just shared this post with our Conservation Biology students. They have recently been discussing different positions stakeholders may take on the issue of domestic firewood collection. One more perspective includes the view of the choughs!

  5. Thanks for this great post Patrick. I was immediately drawn into the tensions over brood security as the three attempted their roost climb. Then your last para comes as both a shock and revelation. Choughs need nesting territory that has mature ground cover, decaying limbs and timber for newly fledged chicks.. I immediately started thinking : “how would this situation would be handled by First Nations and their low intensity burns.?” Then I remembered the eco-data from Central Australia. Their mosaic burning seems to create a patch-work of echo-niches whose ages can vary from 1-5+ years. Each of them have a preferred flora and fauna occupying them or using them for foraging. Has anyone studied this multiple echo-niche principle south of the Murray with respect to the needs of fauna and what mix of cool-burn techniques might be deployed ? best regards, Carlo

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